Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy

Jackspeak: Certain words or terminology that are commonly used in the Canadian Navy.

The Canadian Navy has it's own terminology and slang that is still evolving to this day. Much of the language used is still derived from the Royal Navy, although as Canadians many local customs and slang have come about.

This list was compiled over the years and was finally published in 2014 as "Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy (2015 edition)" In 2018, a completely revised 2nd edition will be released. The 2018 edition features expanded and revised definitions, many more example sentences, and over 400 new terms.

Index: 0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

"B" Terms

Back Bearing
A bearing taken on an object behind the vessel.
Back up
To assist in holding.
A change of wind direction in the counter-clockwise direction
Backing and filling
Originally a badly handled sailing ship whose sails were not catching the wind properly. Today, it is used for someone who constantly shifts his or her ground in a discussion or argument.
Long lines or cables, reaching from the stern of the vessel to the mast heads, used to support the mast.
Bag Drive
A remark to describe an extensive period of excessive activity marked by great levels of physical and mental strain.
Bag of Hammers
Someone or something that is or appears to be sloppy, clumsy, or incompetent.
A person that consistently does not pull their own weight.
An anti-chafing covering made from old ropes.
A device for removing water that has entered the boat.
Ball Diamond Ball
Day shapes hoisted up the mast in this way indicate that the vessel is under conditions where it is "restricted in ability to maneuver". This occurs when the ship is undergoing replenishment at sea.
Ballast Tank
A device used on ships and submarines and other submersibles to control buoyancy and stability.
Balls to the Wall
Maximum speed.
Banca Boat
Term for any small native watercraft, especially in the Western Pacific or Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf. "Banca" is from the Tagalog language, meaning "boat".
Bandie, Bandy
Military musician.
1. NATO codeword meaning an air contact positively identified as hostile.
2. (RCN) A sailor who is often in trouble or involved with underhanded dealings.
A Banyan is barbecue or party, usually with steaks and beer. The term is derived from banian, a garment worn by an East Indian sect who neither kills nor eats meat. In the 18th century, the British navy denied its sailors meat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; these days were known as banian (or Banyan) days. The custom was introduced during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I as an attempt to economize. The term has now come to mean just the opposite.
It is a naval tradition to baptize children using the ship's bell as a baptismal font and to engrave the names of the children on the bell afterwards.
Large mass of sand or earth, formed by the surge of the sea. They are mostly found at the entrances of great rivers or havens, and often render navigation extremely dangerous, but confer tranquility once inside.
Bar Pilot
A bar pilot guides ships over the dangerous sandbars at the mouth of rivers and bays.
The inside fixed trunk of a warship's turreted gun-mounting, on which the turret revolves.
A towed or self-propelled flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river, canal, and coastal transport of heavy goods.
Barnacle Bill
A sea shanty (song) about a young sailor trying to sleep with a maiden. Also known as "Abel Brown ".
Barquentine (also barkentine)
A sailing vessel with three or more masts; with a square-rigged foremast and all other masts fore-and-aft rigged.
Barrack Stanchion
A person who has spent much time ashore.
A sailor that was stationed aloft, in the crow's nest.
Barrett's Privateers
"Barrett's Privateers" is a popular folk song in the style of a sea shanty, originally written and performed by Canadian musician Stan Rogers and considered as one of the Canadian Navy's unofficial anthems. The song tells the tale of a young fisherman who enlisted on Elcid Barrett's ill-fated ship, the Antelope.
Base Brat
A child or adolescent who has grown up in a military family and has moved from base to base.
A party.
Basket of eggs
An astronomical fix taken when the sun is almost exactly overhead. The result when plotted looks like a collection of small circles.
A device used to measure the temperature of the ocean at different depths. This data was used by the Sonar Operators to better understand how the sonar signal would work when attempting to locate enemy submarines.
Batten Down
Make fast, secure, or shut.
Batten Down the Hatches
Traditionally, the act of preparing for inclement weather by securing the closed hatch covers with wooden battens so as to prevent water from entering from any angle.
Battle Cover
The metal cover for a scuttle or deadlight.
Battle of the Atlantic Sunday
The first Sunday in May, set aside to commemorate sailors who lost their lives protecting the Atlantic trade routes to Europe.
A type of large capital ship of the first half of the 20th century, similar in size, appearance, and cost to a battleship and typically armed with the same kind of heavy guns, but much more lightly armored .
A type of large, heavily armored warship of the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century armed with heavy-caliber guns, designed to fight other battleships in a line of battle.
The shore, or to be put ashore.
Deliberately running a vessel aground to load and unload (as with landing craft), or sometimes to prevent a damaged vessel sinking.
A lighted or unlighted fixed aid to navigation attached directly to the earth's surface.
Wardroom steward, particularly in the RN.
1. The ram on the prow of a fighting galley of ancient and medieval times.
2. The protruding part of the foremost section of a sailing ship of the 16th to the 18th century, usually ornate, used as a working platform by sailors handling the sails of the bowsprit. It also housed the crew's heads (toilets).
The width of a vessel at the widest point, or a point alongside the ship at the midpoint of its length.
Beam Ends
When a ship is completely on her side; confusion.
Beam Sea
A sea where waves are moving perpendicular to the direction a ship is moving.
Beam Wind
A wind at right angles to the vessel's course.
Large squared off stone used with sand for scraping clean wooden decks.
Bear A Hand
An order to assist.
Bear Away
1. To steer away from the wind.
2. To steer away from another ship or object.
Bear Pit
The Engineer's (Stokers) messdeck or in a submarine the lower aft section of a diesel boats engine room.
The horizontal direction of a line of sight between two objects on the surface of the earth. See also absolute bearing and relative bearing.
Bearing Drawing Right/Left
The movement, left or right, of the bearing to an object in motion relative to your platform. If the object's bearing is moving to the left or right then the object will likely pass either forward or aft of your ship. See Closing on a Steady Bearing.
Bearing Only Launch
Launch of a stand-off weapon with only bearing data. The missile will travel up the bearing line looking for the intended target.
Beat to Quarters
Prepare for battle (beat = beat the drum to signal the need for battle preparation)
Beating or Beat to
Sailing as close as possible towards the wind in a zig-zag course to attain an upwind direction to which it is impossible to sail directly.
Beating up
A person putting in extra effort when an officer is in the area is said to be beating up. Derives from the sailing terminology where a ship under sail beats upwind; that is, is sailing against the wind, which requires more effort.
Beaufort Scale
The scale describing wind force devised by Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort in 1808, in which winds are graded by the effect of their force (originally, the amount of sail that a fully rigged frigate could carry). Scale now reads up to Force 17.
To cut off the wind from a sailing vessel, either by the proximity of land or by another vessel.
Unable to move due to lack of wind; said of a sailing vessel.
The name of a well-known fire-fighting and damage control training stucture at CFB Esquimalt. Its actual name was HMCS Bedlam. It is no longer in use.
Beef bandit
A supply rating. Also applies to a person who is thought to be of a lecherous nature.
Before the mast
Literally, the area of a ship before the foremast (the forecastle). Traditionally, used to refer to men whose living quarters are located here, officers being quartered in the stern-most areas of the ship (near the quarterdeck). Officer-trainees lived between the two ends of the ship and become known as "midshipmen". Crew members who started out as seamen, then became midshipmen, and later, officers, were said to have gone from "one end of the ship to the other.
1. To make fast a line around a fitting, usually a cleat or belaying pin.
2. To secure a climbing person in a similar manner.
Belay Last
An order to halt a current activity or countermand an order prior to execution. Used for verbal orders, as in "Belay Last" and also for pipes as in "Belay Last Pipe".
Belaying Pins
Short movable bars of iron or hard wood to which running rigging may be secured, or belayed.
Bell Buoy
A type of buoy with a large bell and hanging hammers that sound by wave action.
Bell Tapper
A sailor who is habitually late, especially when relieving the previous watch.
Down, as in "Below Decks".
A knot used to join two ropes or lines. See also hitch.
A drinking spree.
Radio proword. Broken or inoperative, as in "My gadget is bent".
Usually a place for a ship to secure to. Also sometime used to describe a place to sleep.
Between Decks
Any space below the upper deck.
Between Wind and Water
The part of a ship's hull that is sometimes submerged and sometimes brought above water by the rolling of the vessel.
A buddy who is a traitor, or used to describe the traitorous activity itself.
Bifurcation Buoy
A buoy that marks where a channel divides.
Big Eats
A special meal. Similar to "Fancy Dins".
Big Wigs
At one time, senior officers in the British Navy actually did wear large wigs.
1. The curl or loop in a rope, which may tighten or close at any time, especially if the rope is running. The term "never stand with your foot in a bite" is often heard.
2. An indentation in a coastline.
1. The compartment at the very bottom of the hull of a ship or boat where water collects and must be pumped out of the vessel.
2. Nonsense.
Bilge Diving
The act of working in the bilges of a ship.
Bilge Keels
A pair of additional keel rails on either side of the hull, usually slanted outwards.
Bilge Rat
A person that works in the engineering spaces.
Bilged on Her Anchor
A ship that has run upon her own anchor, so the anchor cable runs under the hull.
The extremity of the arm of an anchor; the point of or beyond the fluke.
Bimini Top
Open-front canvas top for the cockpit of a pleasure boat, usually supported by a metal frame.
(RN) A whip used for punishment in the days of sail. Consists of a length of rope (about 18 inches) made heavier and more brittle by dipping in hot tar, usually with a knot in the receiving end, or leather shoelaces pleated to form a single length.
Throw something out, or get rid of something. eg. "We had to bin that idea," or "That old hawser was binned."
Bin Rat
Slang for a person who works in stores (supply).
(Aviation) NATO codeword meaning low fuel level and requiring either an immediate return to base or vector to a tanker.
The pedestal or housing for the ship's compass, usually located on the bridge or in the wheelhouse.
Short for Binoculars.
Underwater sounds detected by the sonar but created by sea life.
Bird Farm
Aircraft carrier.
1. Punishment consisting of confinement to the ship or base, or may refer to the sailors under punishment.
2. (USN) Term for the silver eagle collar device of a naval Captain
3. Generic term for aircraft.
4. NATO codeword meaning friendly surface to air missile.
Birds Tight
NATO codeword meaning missiles may be fired only at contacts positively identified as hostile.
A post or pair mounted on the ship's bow, for fastening ropes or cables.
Bitter End
The last part or loose end of a rope or cable. When the anchor cable is fully paid out, the bitter end has been reached.
Black Angus
Nearly legendary establishment with a highly dubious reputation, located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Black Cat Merchant
(RN) Someone who loves to exaggerate.
Black Gang
The engineering crew of the vessel, i.e., crewmembers who work in the vessel's engine room, fire room, and boiler room, so called because they would be covered in coal dust during the days of coal-fired steamships. To be more politically correct the term has now been shifted to "Black-Hand Gang".
Black Syph
The most loathsome venereal disease known to any sailor, where, as legend has it, will cause a man's penis to turn black and fall off. Usually, any venereal disease, whether it be syphilis or not, is often referred to as the "Black Syph".
Black Tot Day
The name given to the last day on which the Royal Navy issued sailors with a daily rum ration, which was 31 July 1970. In the RCN, this day came two years later, on 30 March 197
Black Water
Blank Flange
A plate that is bolted onto an open pipe to prevent flooding or leaks while work is performed on a piping system.
Blanket Stacker
A Supply Technician.
Bleed Air
In gas turbine engines, compressed air that is "bled" from the compressor section at various points.
NATO codeword meaning that an aircraft has lost visual contact with another friendly aircraft or ground position (opposite of visual).
A pulley or set of pulleys.
Block Leave
A period of leave during which an entire ship's company is nowhere to be found. Usually happens in the summer or at Christmas.
The catch-all name for the ordinary sailor, used in general conversation, training films and manuals. eg. "Ordinary Seaman Bloggins screwed up again".
NATO codeword for a Mark 46 ASW torpedo.
Bloodhound Loose
NATO codeword meaning " I have launched an ASW torpedo in this area". Used to advise others to keep clear.
Blow the Man Down
Olde English for "knock him down".
Blue Force
Friendly forces in a war game exercise
Blue on Blue
Accidental death or injury resulting from actions of your own forces. Sometimes called "friendly fire".
Blue Peter
The blue and white flag (Papa flag) that is flown on a ship ready to sail. This flag at the mainmast is known as the signal to recall everyone to his ship.
Blue Water Navy
A navy with warships that are designed to sail the oceans of the world, not just coastal waters. Opposite of "Brown Water Navy"
A warship that has operated inside the Arctic Circle gets blue paint added to the bow to show this fact. People who served in the ship are awarded a Bluenose Certificate. Not to be confused with those from Nova Scotia who consider themselves "Bluenosers" or the schooner named "Bluenose".
Blunt end
An offhand way to describe the stern of a warship.
Basic Military Qualification. Technically, basic training.
1. To go alongside and enter a ship.
2. An oral examination before a panel of overseers.
Rank markings. Short for "shoulder boards".
A vessel that is carried by ship. ie. ships can carry boats, but not vice versa. Of course, submarines in the Navy are also referred to as "Boats".
A pole with a hook on the end, used to reach into the water to catch buoys or other floating objects.
Boatswain (also Bosun or Bos'n)
Generally, in naval parlance a Boatswain is a non-commissioned officer responsible for the sails, ropes, rigging and boats. This term comes from the Old English batswegen, meaning the boat's swain, or husband. Today in the RCN the term "Boatswain" refers to the professional seaman trade.
Boatswain call
Often referred to as a Boatswain's pipe or whistle, it is non-diaphragm type of whistle used on naval ships. It consists of a narrow tube (the gun) which directs air over a metal sphere (the buoy) with a hole in the top. The player opens and closes the hand over the hole to change the pitch. The rest of the pipe consists of a "keel", a flat piece of metal beneath the gun that holds the call together, and the "shackle", a key ring that connects a long silver or brass chain that sits around the collar, when in ceremonial uniform.
Boatswain's Mate
1. (RCN) In harbour, the Boatswain's Mate is part of the gangway staff, second to the Quartermaster and under the command of the Officer of the Day. He makes all pipes and assists the quartermaster. At sea, his post is on the bridge, under the command of the officer of the watch. Abbreviated "BM".
2. (USN) The occupational rating of boatswain's mate is a designation given to enlisted members who are rated as a deck seaman.
A maker of boats, especially of traditional wooden construction.
On a sailing vessel, the bobstay holds the bowsprit downwards, counteracting the effect of the forestay.
Body Plan
In shipbuilding, an end elevation showing the contour of the sides of a ship at certain points of her length.
Bog Standard
Any item that is the basic rig, and without modification, frills or decoration.
NATO codeword describing an unidentified, but possible enemy aircraft.
Acronym for bend over, here it comes again. May be used by sailors moaning and dripping about ship's routine.
A squat cylindrical fixture attached to a jetty or deck. Used to secure berthing lines.
A weighted pouch, which is connected to a slender line, which when slung underhand or overhead may be thrown to another vessel.
Bombay Runner
A large cockroach.
A hardhat or helmet. See "Brain Bucket".
A ships doctor. Short for sawbones.
Bonnie (the)
HMCS BONAVENTURE, an aircraft carrier that served in the Canadian Navy in the 1960s.
A type of bird that has little fear and therefore is particularly easy to catch.
Booby Hatch
A sliding hatch or cover.
1. A floating barrier to control navigation into and out of rivers and harbours.
2. A spar attached to a mast at one end.
Ballistic missile submarine.
Rookie or newbie. Short for "Boot Camp".
Boot Camp
Basic training.
Boot Topping
The black paint used at the waterline of many warships. Separates the hull paint from the anti-fouling underwater paint.
Bore up or Bore away
To assume a position to engage, or disengage, enemy ship(s).
Tounge-in-cheek acronym for "Boring Exercise".
Bos'n Pay
A device for adjusting tension in stays, shrouds and similar lines.
1. The front of a vessel.
2. Either side of the front (or bow) of the vessel, i.e., the port bow and starboard bow. Something ahead and to the left of the vessel is "off the port bow", while something ahead and to the right of the vessel is "off the starboard bow."
Bow Array
Referring to a submarine's sonar suite located in the bow.
Bow Chaser
A gun mounted on the bow of a sailing vessel.
Bow Thruster
A small propeller or water-jet at the bow, used for manoeuvring larger vessels at slow speed. May be mounted externally, or in a tunnel running through the bow from side to side.
Bow Wave
A radio request for a weather report.
A knot which forms a permanent loop in a rope. It is one of the strongest knots known to any sailor. Was originally a special knot use by archers for securing their bowstrings.
To pull or hoist.
A spar projecting from the bow of a sailing vessel or small craft. Used as an anchor for the forestay and other rigging.
Box Kicker
A Supply Technician.
Boxing the Compass
1. To name all 32 cardinal points of the compass.
2. To turn and face all different points of the compass when a ship drifts or loses control.
3. Referring to a wind that is constantly shifting.
Boy Seaman
A young sailor, still in training. This term is largely historical.
In gunnery, acquire the first salvo of gunfire on one side of the target, and the second salvo on the other.
Brain Bucket
A hardhat or helmet.
Brain Housing Group
A sailor's head, or skull.
Bras D'or
The name of Canada's most famous hydrofoil that served from 1968 to 1971. During sea trials in 1969, HMCS Bras D'or exceeded 63 knots making her the fastest unarmed warship in the world. Despite her speed, the program was cancelled and she was laid up in Dartmouth for decades. She is now on display at the Muse Maritime du Quebec at L'Islet-sur-Mer, Quebec.
Officers, especially senior officers.
Brass Pounder
Early 20th-century slang term for a vessel's radio operator, so called because he repeatedly struck a brass key on his transmitter to broadcast in morse code.
Bravo Zulu
Phonetic pronunciation of 'BZ' from the NATO signals codes. Signifies "Good Job" or "Well Done".
Bread broken with the hands
At a Naval Mess Dinner bread is never cut with a knife. It is always broken with the hands.
Radio voice procedure proword used to change topics in a lengthy message,
The act of disconnecting from a replenishment at sea and maneuvering clear. Can be either a normal or emergency evolution, the difference being simply how quickly the various actions are accomplished.
1. A harbour breakwater is used to prevent the roughness of the sea outside the harbour from affecting the waters within.
2. A part of a ship's structure, usually located on the bow, and is used to divert a breaking sea.
A shell (in gunnery).
A structure above the weather deck, extending the full width of the vessel, which houses a command centre, itself called by association, the bridge.
Bridge Wing
An open-air extension of the bridge to port or starboard, intended for use in signaling.
1. Historically, a vessel with two square-rigged masts.
2. (USN) An interior space in the ship used to detain prisoners
Polished metal fittings.
Bring up with a round turn
To be stopped in your tracks or put in your place.
When a vessel loses control of its motion and is forced into a sudden sharp turn, often heeling heavily, sometimes leading to a capsize.
Broach To
When a ship or boat unintentionally swings around broadside to a wave.
Wide in appearance from the vantage point of a lookout or other person viewing activity in the vicinity of a ship. eg. another ship off the starboard bow with her side facing the viewer's ship could be described as "broad on the starboard bow" of the viewer's ship.
1. One side of a vessel above the waterline.
2. All the guns on one side of a warship or mounted (in rotating turrets or barbettes) so as to be able fire on the same side of a warship.
3. The simultaneous firing of all the guns on one side of warship or able to fire on the same side of a warship.
The proper term for what is often called the "gangway", a temporary bridge from the ship to the jetty, or in some cases to another ship.
Brow Skirts
Canvas dodgers that are placed on the sides of the brow, usually emblazoned with the ship's name in the ship's official colours.
Brown Fingered Numbers
Numbers that have been clearly pulled out of one's butt.
Brown Water Navy
A navy consisting of shallow water or shallow draft vessels. A navy whose ships are not suited to deep water and open-water combat.
NATO codeword for a photographic device. Camera.
NATO codeword meaning air launched anti-ship missile.
Brush the salt off the shoulders
A remark that may be made to somebody who is telling an exaggerated sea story.
A system of measuring, in degrees, the amount by which a submarine's bow is above or below the horizontal. Down Bubble is used to increase depth. Up Bubble is used to decrease depth.
Generic slang used to describe either a diver or a submariner.
Slang for rum.
Buck She
Slang for anything you can get for free, e.g., "We won't pay for that, we'll find one buck she." Derived from the Arabic word "bak-sheesh," alms given to the poor, a tip, or small bribe.
Bucket of Prop Wash
A fictitious entity that can be used to prank a brand-new seaman. eg. "Bloggins, go fetch me a bucket of prop wash." See also "Relative Bearing Grease " and "20 Feet of Shoreline".
Buddy Fucker
Describes someone who, whether intentionally or not, acts in a manner totally inconsiderate to the welfare of his/her shipmates.
(RCN)(RN) The senior boatswain onboard a ship, responsible for seamanship evolutions. Also known as the Chief Boatswain's Mate.
Buggery Box
A set of storage boxes located to the side of a bunk, and in between two side-by-side bunks.
Bulbous Bow
A protruding bulb at the bow of a ship, just below the waterline, which modifies the way water flows around the hull, reducing drag and thus increasing speed, range, fuel efficiency, and stability.
Bulk Carrier
A merchant ship specially designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo in its cargo holds. Also bulk freighter or bulker.
An upright wall within the hull of a ship. Occasionally refers to a watertight, load-bearing wall, but not always.
Loudly criticizing a fellow sailor.
NATO codeword for surface-launched anti-ship missile, e.g. Harpoon.
Bullet Hole
Slang term for the rosette worn on the Canadian Forces Decoration undress ribbon. Each rosette represents an additional ten years of undetected crime.
The large fairlead at the bow for passing out hawsers or cable.
Bulwark (or Bulward)
The extension of the ship's side above the level of the weather deck.
Bum Nut
A chicken egg.
An activity with no purpose or end benefit.
A civilian boat that comes alongside to sell merchandise.
A stream of messages being sent out by headquarters.
A tank or container for storing coal or fuel oil for a ship's engine.
Bunker Fuel
Fuel oil for a ship.
One of the lines tied to the bottom of a square sail and used to haul it up to the yard when furling.
Bunts; Bunting tosser
A navy signalman. The nickname derives from the "bunting" of which signal flags were once made. In the USN the terms used for a signalman are "Flag Wagger" or "Skivvy Waver".
A floating object of defined shape and colour, which is anchored at a given position and serves as an aid to navigation. Pronounced as "boy", and not as the american "boo-ee".
Buoy Jumper
The sailor who climbs up onto a mooring buoy to attach or remove mooring lines.
The Builder's Old Measurement, expressed in "tons bm" or "tons BOM", a volumetric measurement of cubic cargo capacity, not of weight. This is the tonnage of a ship, based on the number of tuns of wine that it could carry in its holds. One 252-gallon tun of wine takes up approximately 100 cubic feet, and, incidentally, weighs 2,240 lbs (1 long ton, or Imperial ton).
The vessel with the responsibility to give way to another vessel.
A small flag, typically triangular, flown from the masthead of a yacht to indicate yacht-club membership.
Burma Road
A nickname given to the main passageway in St. Laurent Class and Iroquois Class destroyers.
In a submarine, a system that burns carbon monoxide and hydrogen out of the air, converting H2 to water and CO to CO
2. CO2 is then removed by the "scrubber".
The point at which a radar overcomes electronic jamming.
NATO codeword meaning an aircraft should use maximum speed available without using afterburners.
1. A wooden cask or barrel.
2. The bottom end of a spar or other object ie. the butt end.
3. A cigarette.
Butt End
The largest end.
Butt Kit
An ashtray.
A rumour.
By and large
A nautical expression now in common use, meaning "broadly speaking". Nautically, it means to sail a boat "by" the wind but not "large", or close to the wind.
By His Lights
In the dark, predicting the intentions of another vessel by interpreting his navigation lights.
By the Board
Anything that has gone overboard.

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